Recently I had a discussion with a very good friend who serves on the pastoral staff of a church where the senior pastor has been charged with “doctrinal infidelity.” My friend is also in the crosshairs of this man. The charge against the senior pastor is not from the elders, at least not yet, but from an influential man associated with a Christian organization. The pastor in question is a solid man who graduated from a well known Midwestern seminary and has an impeccable home life and tenure as a pastor. I have benefited from the ministries of both these men. The charges are in fact baseless and do not pertain to the church doctrinal statement. In other words, he has been charged with heretical teaching on matters that are not addressed at all in the church statement of faith. He is in complete agreement with the church doctrinal statement. Yet the charge has been made.
The outcome of this cannot be good. The man making the charge wants to hold the pastor to a standard that he could not possibly hold to himself. This man rejects the view of the pastor on matters dealing with the interpretation of one passage. In other words, “I disagree with your interpretation of that passage and that makes you a heretic.” This man is what Paul calls a “factious man” (Titus 3:10). Indeed, unless the elders step in and stop this man, he will likely bully, badger, wear down, and recruit others to his cause and the sad part is that he will likely do it under the guise of wanting to protect the church.
Doctrinal infidelity is a serious charge and in some eras of church history one could lose their life for simply being charged with error. However doctrinal infidelity cannot be charged to any man simply because someone might differ on an issue that is so insignificant that churches do not think enough of it to include it in their statement of faith! Elders have a responsibility, Paul states, to “reject a factious man after a first and second warning” (Titus 3:10). The hope in this case is that once the elders determine that the pastor has not violated the church statement of faith, they will discipline him for such a charge.
May God give church leaders courage to deal with such men who make such blanket charges against men like this man and whose effect often causes untold misery in the church.